Providing chances

How often do you come across a deaf, blind or otherwise differently abled person in your daily life? Last week, while visiting our hotels in India, this is exactly what happened.

When going down for breakfast in the Radisson Blu Hotel Nagpur I was greeted by a broadly smiling deaf and mute floor attendant who made it perfectly clear that I was invited to write my comments about the room in the floor’s logbook. Similarly, downstairs at the Cake Shop, the deaf team greeted and served guests with perfect courtesy.

We are seeing increasing instances of true diversity and respect for talent of all backgrounds and ability. Other exemplary hotels and hospitality businesses include:

  • Our very own Park Inn by Radisson Hotel Newlands Cape Town, a hotel co-owned by the DEAFSA – the Deaf Association of South Africa – where 30% of the staff are deaf and the proud winner of the Guardian Sustainable Business Award. The leading example of this hotel is now being spread to our other hotels in Cape Town.
  • Confortel Hoteles in Spain, winner of the WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Award, who have integrated 10% of differently abled staff in all their hotels. 
  • The SHEROES tea shop in Agra, India, which is run by 5 ladies who have been the victims of horrible acid attacks. Targets of this horrible crime are often stigmatized and live their lives in hiding. These entrepreneurial ladies break the barriers – one is even a fashion designer.

Having differently abled employees is an asset in many ways. For one, it helps to ensure our hotels our well equipped to welcoming differently abled guests. The hospitality industry is an enormous driver of employment, and we should make sure this employment is inclusive. Our industry is one of the few that is providing so many ladders of opportunity. It’s an industry where you can quickly work your way up into a well-paying position in professional management.

However, a recent article from The Guardian revealed a study that proves many companies fear employing people with disabilities. But the UK government wants more people with disabilities working. In a recent speech, the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith said he aims to halve the employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people, and criticised businesses for failing to provide enough opportunities.

Yet, a new survey by the charity Mencap reveals that many employers remain uneasy about the role they are expected to play in closing the gap. Only 16% of UK employers felt confident that the disability employment gap would be halved.

As inclusive employers who can offer a large spectrum of jobs, we hoteliers should ask ourselves: How inclusive are we really and can we provide even more opportunities. Can we work with other players in the travel and tourism industry to do so, including airlines and travel agents? It is a matter of perception and believing in possibilities.